On Tuesday this week the Prime Minister announced new restrictions to try and slow down the spread of the coronavirus. These include requiring all staff in shops and hospitality businesses like pubs and cafes to wear masks from Monday, as must their customers unless they are eating and drinking, and they must also order and be served food and drinks whilst seated at a table. All pubs will be required to close from 10pm in the evenings from this Thursday, and the maximum number of guests allowed at a wedding will be limited to fifteen people. There will now be a £200 fine for the first offence of failing to wear a mask. The government advice on the workplace has also changed with people being asked to work from home if they can. Overall, Boris Johnson has also warned that coronavirus social distancing restrictions could remain in place for another six months.
All of the Government’s statistics on the coronavirus show that we are in danger of experiencing a second peak of infections. Whilst the number of people seeking treatment in hospital for COVID-19 remains low, there is a clear link between rising infection rates and rising numbers of admissions, and in turn rising numbers of deaths. Clearly, we must do all we can to avoid unnecessary fatalities from this virus. We are not though seeing a return to a full lockdown. Over the past months the Government has been slowly turning back on parts of the economy and society that were previously restricted. Unfortunately, we have now had to turn back that dial a bit, and I hope only for a short time, until the infection rate starts to fall again.
Last week the Department for Health announced an additional £150 million of capital funding to expand and upgrade 25 more hospital A&Es to reduce overcrowding and improve infection control ahead of the winter. As a result of this I was pleased to see that, following lobbying from Kent MPs for more investment in our local NHS, the William Harvey hospital in Ashford will receive a £3 million investment to expand its A&E department and increase same day emergency care.
This week the first asylum seekers have started to arrive at the hostel-style accommodation that is being created for them by the Home Office at Napier Barracks in Folkestone. Eventually this facility will hold up to 400 people, all of whom are having their asylum applications processed. I have opposed this decision by the Government, as I believe it is wrong to place so many people in a single open camp, in the middle of a residential community. I have written again this week to the Immigration Minister asking specific questions about how Napier Barracks will be operated to ensure the safeguarding and security both of the local community and those who will be resident in the camp. I have also asked for additional resources from the Home Office to assist Folkestone and Hythe District Council and Kent Police with the costs they are incurring, as a result of the extra work being generated for their officers, following this decision.